Whether you’re at the point of evaluating new logo concepts as part of a rebranding process, or just trying to figure out if your current logo still has staying power, the key is to look at something beyond the simple and subjective decision of whether you “like it” esthetically or think it’s “creative.”
It’s hard to look at things objectively in relation to logos and other creative products. We’re all programmed to react to things based on our own filters and preferences, and as business people we frequently lack the vocabulary to discuss these issues or the nuances that come with them.
While it’s ideal to love your own logo and other brand assets, the most important thing for your business is how well it portrays the essence of your company’s brand and value, how it connects with customers, what it communicates to them, and whether it’s utility meets your long-term business needs. After all, it’s a tool for growing your business, not art to hang on your wall at home.
So how do you know if your logo does its job?
First, get the subjective out of the way.
So how do you respond initially to your own logo or the proposed concepts you’ve been presented? What’s your first reaction? Is it visceral? Positive? Does one feel “right” and another “wrong?” Do they make you think of another brand or industry? Is that connection positive or negative?
Emotion is very important in branding and logo design. Make note of your own and others initial reactions, trying to capture the specific words that people use to describe how they feel or what the logo makes them think of…but don’t use it as a way to “take a vote” and don’t trust that this is the most important criteria for your decision. Take this subjective feedback initially with a grain of salt; then review some more objective criteria; then revisit those initial reactions based on the objective criteria. Do they conflict with or confirm your first gut reactions?
Know that there are few right answers in the subjective criteria (it’s more shades of gray) but there are likely some absolutely wrong answers in the objective ones. No matter what aspects you use to judge your logo, many of them are going to be open to interpretation or judgment. However once you get beyond the subjectivity of personal esthetics, you can start to judge your concepts as to where they fall on a spectrum (how strongly they qualify as a candidate) and discard those ideas that lack specific criteria entirely. Beyond that there are aspects of utility that are often overlooked until the logo is in play (and investment in retooling made) before discovering that there are disadvantages or instances where the logo just doesn’t work. A logo that isn’t functional isn’t a wise investment, no matter how much you like the swoosh or gradient.
Second, review your “client-specific” criteria; the stuff you know you need.
This should be a short list of descriptors about the nature or personality of your organization that have emerged through discussion and data gathering within the organization: the minimum of what needs to be embodied in the logo. These should be needs as opposed to wants (although that’s a good secondary list) and are most helpful if they are prioritized by importance. (Do this before your logo design process begins to give the creative team their target.)
Keep in mind, as you identify your criteria, that a logo can’t literally illustrate every aspect of your organization’s work and personality. It’s more important that it can encompass or contain your brand’s characteristics than that it spell them all out in a way that every viewer would identify immediately if they were asked to write down a list of what your logo “says.”
This specific criteria list might relate to content (what the logo mark has to symbolize), an appropriate “look” or feeling that needs to be evoked (industrial, humane, charitable), or even a color meaning that is seen as a requirement (for example: red for a blood bank).
The more specific your criteria can be, the more strategic and focused a designer can be in their explorations. Criteria like “creative” and “professional” are essentially meaningless. I mean, who really wants an unprofessional logo? Those should be basic assumptions of every logo. If you feel like those types of criteria are continually bubbling up in the mix, look for more descriptive ways to explain them to inform the team (for example: “painterly” for creative, or “tailored” for professional) and why you feel those are mission-critical.
A good logo designer should present you with a rationale for each logo concept and how they feel it embodies or encompasses your criteria and your organization’s value proposition. A good logo should meet all or most of your client-specific criteria (don’t be surprised if a concept or two diverge on one or two criteria points, but still satisfy the overall target.) Even though some of the criteria might be a little malleable, a successful logo should satisfy all of the objective criteria listed below.
Third, check that these 10 objective criteria are met.
1. Is it customer-focused?
2. Is it relevant?
3. Is it distinctive?
4. Is it memorable?
5. Is it simple?
6. Is it credible?
7. Is it timely and timeless?
8. Is it adaptable?
9. Is it extendable?
10. Does it have depth of meaning?
(For detailed notes on each of these criteria see: “Checklist: 10 Must-Have Criteria for Your Logo.”)